Black Diamonds And The Blue Brazil

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August 1, 2011 by markstani

April 24. Raith Rovers 4, Cowdenbeath 1
“Let’s face it boys, we’re shite,” is the cry from a well-dressed man at the Cowdenbeath end of the stand. He obviously doesn’t believe in the new psychology of affirmation. When will the season end?”

A few years ago, I met up with a couple of mates on what you might call a vidi-printer pilgrimage to Cowdenbeath. One of our number got stuck in roadworks on the Forth Road Bridge and turned up twenty minutes after kick-off. We continue to joke how he must be the only guy in history to miss the start of a Cowdenbeath match due to congestion.
The jokes and the Anglo-pilgrimages continue. Almost anyone who grew up watching Final Score in the eighties must admit to at least a fleeting intrigue in those strange names that beeped up each week: Cowdenbeath. Stenhousemuir. Albion Rovers. If East Stirlingshire are so bad, what about the rest of Stirlingshire?
It’s a beautiful anachronism that all those teams still exist today, providing an ever more potent antidote to the financial obscenity of modern football. They may still be the butt of our jokes but they exist in their crumbling micro-stadia to serve a purpose the Premiership giants have long since lost.
That’s why I maintain Ronald Ferguson’s book, ‘Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil’, published in 1993 by Famedram, is one of the best and most important football books I’ve read. It’s a chronicle not just of a season in the life of Cowdenbeath FC (by chance, it happens to be one of the most cataclysmic seasons even by their standards), but a history of the whole place, pocked with political struggle and pit disasters. It’s an explanation of the important role the football club played in the town, and sadly, a metaphor for the place’s decline.
Not that Ferguson or anyone else in Cowdenbeath would thank you for the kind of patronising that still persuades folk – us – to traipse up and answer our childhood fantasies once in a while. That Cowdenbeath and their like still survive is less a miraculous quirk than a testament to the important historical role they have played and continue to play in their respective societies. The kind of role of which the likes of Manchester City can only dream.

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